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Dark Salvation

by Jonathan Snyder




Aniva groped wildly at a bare tree branch trying to keep her exhausted body from falling into the deep snow. The wind screamed around her, every bit of heat in her body being ripped away. Her cloak wrapped tightly around her twelve-year-old daughter who had been silent since Lord Valeras had kicked them out of the house.

Aniva knew that the unexpected arrival of his wife from the other side of the world would mean her time in that household had come to an end, but she did not expect to just be summarily thrown out in a blizzard.

Yes, Aniva’s daughter was illegitimate, and she was originally a lady of the night, but she thought he loved her. Didn’t he love her?

Pulling her daughter close, the freezing woman trudged towards the tree line looking for any cover that would protect her daughter. If she survived, that was all that mattered. The Northern Gale killed many, she did not want her daughter one of them.

“Mommy, I’m cold,” her voice came from beneath the too thin cloak.

“I know, baby, I know. Let’s find a place to curl up.”

The first thing her eyes fell on was a large tree with a trunk big enough for her to put her back too, the roots raised high enough that they could make it a hiding place, to cut down the wind.

Pulling herself in and putting her daughter against the tree to shield the girl with her own body, Aniva held her close.

“It’ll be okay,” she whispered soothingly. The nearest village was twelve miles by foot. They weren’t going to make it.

The already dark sky continued to darken as the sun went down, in the far distance, the glint of the manor that was once her home twinkled warmly. Anger gripped the last strength of her body and Aniva cursed the man who abandoned her with the intent she’d die. She gripped her necklace, the only gift from her matron when she left, a small, stylized eye. She sobbed quietly as her daughter slept.

The air shifted, Aniva could feel it. It seemed to get quieter, duller. A scent on the wind that was familiar but foreign. She looked up and peered into the darkening trees. Something was here. She could feel it.

Her eyes roamed carefully looking for a predator. Wolf, Bear, something wanting to eat. It was right at the edge of her sight that she saw it. Two eyes, glowing in a gentle purple, a silhouette of a woman in a dress and cloak on her shoulders.

Aniva opened her mouth to call for help, but it stuck as the woman floated closer. Floated! The cold woman could see the full figure of a beautiful woman, thick dark hair fallen on her shoulders, a pleated bodice with patterns etched in gold. Her legs though, the bottom of her dress, seemed to fade in and out as if a mirage from a desert. The snow was undisturbed by her movement.

Her mind was sluggish, slow. It took way too long for her brain to put together who it was. When it did finally click, the entity was too close. She felt her stomach give out with dread as the being hovered over her just mere feet away. The smell of cinnamon, bergamot, and ash caused Aniva to gasp in terror.

Aniva tried to speak, tried to move but terror kept her frozen in place. The being, this woman with beautiful eyes stared right through her then tilted her head amused.

“Are you not cold?” her voice danced in her ears, her voice like silk.

“My...my dark lady,” Aniva tried to cower at the woman’s feet. “What have I done? Did I insult you? I beg you; I meant no insult towards you.”

“Peace, child,” The voice said by her ear. She felt the light touch that was both hot and cold at the same time.

Aniva prayed hard that her daughter would remain asleep. For it never boded well when in the presence of Vizena, the Torment of Lust, the Dark Lady of the Street, the Man Slayer.

“I heard your cry,” Vizena continued with a singsong to her voice that belied the ruthlessness. “Why are you out in the snow?”

“I... I was kicked out. I was the mistress of a lord, and his wife caught him.”

“So, you pay the consequences for his infidelity?” Vizena said with a sting in her voice.

“I’m just a peasant girl, my lady,” Aniva continued, keeping her eyes averted to the snow. “Not worth the time of someone like you.”

Vizena’s fingers became like claws in her shoulder and Aniva tried to keep from crying out. It came out as a quiet squeak.

“Do you dare tell me what is and is not my business?”

“No, My lady, No!” Aniva begged, the sobs causing her daughter to wake.

“Leave my mother alone!” Little Tasi said, lunging toward the goddess.

Terror shrieked through Aniva as her daughter landed on the entity’s legs and wrapped her little arms around to push the Torment of Lust over. Vizena jerked back in surprise. Every worse scenario went through her head. How was she to save her daughter now?

“You’re a feisty one,” Vizena cooed, holding the girl against her. Tasi struggled for a second and then stopped looking up in curiosity.

“Leave my mom alone...please?”

Vizena turned Tasi back towards her mother but kept her against her skirts, arms wrapping her warmly.

“Your daughter is quite a gem,” Vizena continued.

“Will you save us?” Tasi asked. Oh, this poor girl had no clue who she was talking to.

“I’m intrigued,” Vizena said, looking down and gently running her hands through the girl’s wet hair.

She looked up to Aniva, her eyes burning through her. The power was stealing her breath away.

“I will take you somewhere safe and make things better.”

“For what?” Aniva asked, dreading the answer. The Torment never did anything out of the goodness of her heart.

Vizena looked down with a smile running her hand through Tasi’s hair. Aniva’s eyes widened.

“She’s young!”

“She will be dead in a matter of hours,” Vizena said with a shrug.

“My daughter is too young for the brothels.” Aniva begged.

“No,” the entity continued. “I have other plans for her.”

Vizena knelt in front of her only daughter and straightened her old, raggedy wool blouse and skirt.

“If I save you and your mommy,” Vizena cooed. “Will you come with me?”

“I can’t leave my mom,” Tasi said hesitantly. “She needs me.”

“How about when you're grown up?” Vizena said, her hand hovering over Aniva’s daughter’s head. A dark purple ribbon appeared and moved on its own, tying up her hair.

“Yes,” Tasi said with a nod. “If you save my mommy.”

“Done.”

The words had a finality to it and Vizena grabbed her cloak from her shoulder and threw it over them both.

*****

The scent Aniva had picked up was choking when the darkness of the cloak engulfed her. When she thought she could not breathe anymore, the cold winter air hit her face. Blinking and clearing her eyes she saw the steps of the large manor that she had just been kicked out only half a day earlier.

“What? Why are we here?” Aniva said, scared as she saw two guards coming towards them, swords having been drawn.

Vizena continued to walk forward nonchalantly. The young peasant girl saw her wave her hand absently and the shadows grabbed the two men and drug them away where there were sickening crunches. Aniva forced Tavi’s face into her skirts.

“Halt!” another guard called running down the steps from the front door. He gasped as an invisible hand grabbed him around the throat and lifted him up in the air. He kicked and grasped at nothing there.

Vizena had her hand outstretched, her eyes glowing brightly.

The doors exploded open as a group of rich lords came out with their wine cups and cigars trying to figure out what the noise was. Lord Valeras, with his wife behind him, stopped when he saw Aniva standing there with his bastard daughter and the strange woman.

“I warned you not to come back,” he growled but his brain finally registered the guard floating midair.

His face paled.

Vizena stepped forward; her head tilted to the side in amusement.

“What do you want?” Valeras demanded.

“You abandoned a woman and child to the snow with little thought or care,” Vizena said, her voice cold and she continued to walk slowly toward them.

The beautiful woman had taken on the energy of a predator closing in on its prey.

“And what?” The wife said with a sniff. “Are you here for justice?”

“No,” Vizena said stopping and breaking into a sadistic grin. “Revenge.”

“Who are you?” Valeras demanded though a shake had come to his voice.

“My name is Vizena.”

Throwing her head back, the shriek of rage and excitement echoed in everyone’s ears. The goddess seemed to transform into a vicious creature and charged at them as they all fled into the house chased by their doom.

*****

The sun had slowly begun to rise and kiss the tops of the once beautiful manor. Aniva and Tasi had stayed curled up on the ground by a carriage warm in the light of the fire that had been left there for the footman.

Aniva sang to Tasi any song she could think of to cover the sounds of shrieking and death that was coming from the house. Aniva knew what was happening. Each was being hunted down one by one by a darkness they could not comprehend.

Tasi had fallen into a peaceful sleep and Aniva dozed off. She started and looked up from where she was sitting, daughter still asleep.

Vizena stood there, blood soaked into her dress, flecks of it across her pretty face. She was licking her fingers. She smiled down at them and Aniva knew there was no warmth in that gaze.

“Take the horses to Nirasi, twenty miles north. Go to the Satin Dragon and speak to Matron Kivola. Tell her that I sent you. She will get you smuggled out.”

“Thank you.” Aniva said.

“Don’t thank me,” Vizena said, turning. “Your daughter is mine now. Take care of her and I shall get her when I’m ready.”

Before Aniva could say anything more, she was sitting there alone with only the wind and the silence of death as her company.


THE END


2024 Jonathan Snyder

Bio: Mr. Snyder has been writing stories since his mother handed him a college typewriter at the age of twelve. With a love for stories and the written word, he has continued to share his work with anyone willing to hold still long enough to be caught by it. His publication credits include Aphelion, JukePop, Gateway Science Fiction Magazine and the popular Horror subreddit r/nosleep. His last Aphelion appearance was Smoke And Fury, November 2023 issue.

E-mail: Jonathan Snyder

Website: Jonathan Snyder's Website

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